News Stuff

Official: I am not middle class

Here’s a bit of fun from the Daily Mirror. How “Posh” are you?

Well, I didn’t think being middle class was posh, more aspiring posh, I think. However, an expert in etiquette, William Hanson, claims there are 16 tell-tale household possessions which can determine how middle class you are.

And, surprisingly, I score a fat zero.

Okay, hands up, I have owned one or two in the past but, of this precise moment, I don’t. Here they are, listed in order of popularity,

Smart TV. I have thought about it but telly is a bit crap, so I’m putting it off.

Dyson Vacuum Cleaner. Have had two in the past. Expensive crap, both fell apart. Bought German design instead.

Barbecue. No, much prefer proper cooking.

Vinyl Record Collection. Gone to charity.

iMac Computers. Never considered it. Does an iPad count?

Nutribullet. Have teeth, prefer chewing.

Samsonite Wheelie Suitcase. What’s wrong with a couple of carrier bags?

Wood Burning Stove. Previously had one a couple of houses ago. With the state of the world, might need one again soon.

Spiralizer. What the hell is that? Sounds like the name of a 90’s Indie band.

Mulberry Bags. What, like for carrying your mulberries home in? What?

Matching Coasters. The coffee cup marks on the table provide evidence to the contrary.

Boiling Water Taps. Had these at work once. Don’t actually boil water. Horrible tasting tea.

Hot Tub. I very much doubt this is in any way “posh” but, nope, just wouldn’t.

Aga Cooker. Have used one before but – see same for barbecue above.

Smeg Fridge. Sounds obscene: something they store samples in at a sperm bank, perhaps? A fridge is a fridge, isn’t it?

Brompton Folding Bicycle. Never had a car I couldn’t easily throw an ordinary bike into, so, no thanks.

Ha, what larks! Are you middle-class? Want to be? Buy all of the above.

You are posh if you own one of these 16 items says etiquette expert (Daily Mirror)


If Our Books Disappear

As a Kindle shopper, I hadn’t been aware of the fate of Microsoft’s ebook store. Apparently, the company have decided to pull the plug on it due to its lack of profitability. If and when this happens, any books purchased through this shop will disappear. It’ll be like a virtual book burning session and there’s nothing those customers can do.

It’s worth some consideration, if you’re an ebook buyer, or whether you buy any virtual product, that what you are actually buying is not an object to own, in perpetuity, but a licence or permit to use that thing, maybe for an unspecified period. As long as you know this, I can’t see much wrong with it; you pay your money and you take your choice.

In the UK, at least, ownership of anything and everything is a relatively new social concept. I remember as a small boy, almost everyone rented their TV and music systems, a lot of household stuff was on hire-purchase (colloquially referred to as the never never because you paid but never owned it). My parents were the first in our extended family to own their home – through a 25 year mortgage deal, mind – and everyone thought they were odd, or even mad. Renting and hiring was the norm.

Getting back to books – and thinking about music, too – there is this idea of owning a collection, something which I had mindlessly fallen into as well. I think the craziness of it first surfaced when a colleague explained how he had fallen out with his partner after commandeering the second bedroom of their small, two-bed apartment and had installed wall to wall, floor to ceiling shelving to house his record collection. He had amassed many thousands, apparently. I asked if he actually listened to them all regularly and he said, of course! I doubted that: knowing my own habits and then doing the maths, there hardly seemed enough hours left in a lifetime to indulge in that level of listening, and that supposes that we won’t be seduced by any later offerings by artists and the industry.

It’s exactly so with books but worse. Reading a book is a lot more demanding, intensive and time consuming than listening to a record. While a favourite album might be on repeat playlist for a year, how many books do we return to that often? Of all the books I have reread, probably fewer than six had retained the impression of the first read. Quite a number had felt diminished, knowing the plot, the characters and the ideas within.

Not wishing to decorate my home with expansive shelves of records and books – I much prefer paintings and other images; and space! Let’s hear it for a clutter free existence – we found most of our unread books and unheard music had been confined to packing boxes under the beds or in closets, out of sight, out of mind. We took the step to cull most of it, offering them to charity shops and other collectors, keeping back a small number which we considered having special qualities, but even these rarely get looked at or listened to.

With music, it’s more convenient to pick something from an online platform, I never feel I have to own it to enjoy it. With books, I often find good literature on offer for less than a couple of quid each. There seems to be no end to these offers and I am in danger of collecting a virtual library of more books than I have time left to read. I’m not expecting it to disappear before I do but if it does, I think I’ve had my money’s worth. Owning stuff is not so important to me now, as long as I have access to books, music and art some other way, that’s fine. I understand the deal.

When this ebook store closes, your books disappear too (BBC News)


Could it be that we are bombarded with so many ideas these days that one phenomenon that’s been going on for years has only today come to my attention?

ASMR: have you experienced it and, if so, does it work for you?

In case, like me, you haven’t a clue what it is, it stands for a therapeutic exercise called “Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response” and it’s a response to certain focussed sensations, in particular amplified sounds such as tapping a hard surface, the clip of scissors, the hiss of gas on opening a beer bottle, or a human whisper.

Some people don’t get it and the last of the above examples really doesn’t do it for me. I detest noticeable sibilancy – that “sssss” sound the English language makes which normally goes unnoticed by native speakers but becomes exaggerated in recordings and whispers.

I think it was in a history of native Australians that I read of their distrust of English colonists when they heard them speak. They couldn’t understand what they said, of course, so it sounded to their ears like a bunch of snakes. I understood that in many aboriginal tongues, there is no such sound.

Apart from that one, does any of the rest produce “tingles”? And why?

They seem at pains to exclude the likelihood of sexual responses to the stimuli. I’m a bit sceptical about this. The other thing which is likely, I think, is good old nostalgia. When I came across the Soundcloud site, I played around with a bunch of sound clips to make a personal piece of nostalgic sounds. These sounds, some of them rarely heard now and some forgotten, do evoke pleasant memories for me, a kind of tingle, I suppose. I think we all have them, the sounds of waves lapping over pebbles, the noise of children playing, ducks squabbling over breadcrumbs, a light aircraft passing overhead, the sound made by a manual typewriter… Maybe the tingles are the same as when detecting the presence of any ghost.

However, returning to the sexual/non-sexual issue, are we in any doubt as to the intention in this 2019 beer commercial? Nope.

ASMR: Science – How Stuff Works

ASMR: It helps people, it’s not sexual (BBC)

A Tin Opener

In Britain, before the can, there was the tin. I mention this only because, I think, in America it is a can whereas we seem happy to interchange between tin and can now, although for a long while it was only a tin. Some bifurcation in English probably occurred with “tin can”.

When I was a kid, a lot of food was bought in tins, mainly because domestic freezers weren’t in common use. “Pudding”, as dessert was then called (and still in our house referred to as “pud”) invariably meant opening a tin of fruit, divvying it out into bowls, and pouring on a serving of evaporated milk, again from a tin.

Tinned fruit favourites were apricot halves, sliced peaches, pear halves, mandarin orange segments, pineapple rings, and fruit salad (sometimes labelled as fruit cocktail). All of these fruits were canned in a sweet syrup presumably made from fruit juice and sugar. All in all, it was extremely calorific.

Other foods I remember my folks buying in tins were beans, peas, soups, ham, corned beef, “pink” salmon, “red” salmon, sardines, and tuna. And not forgetting the SPAM!

I believe you could buy anything in a tin in these days – even a steak and kidney pie! – but you had to draw the line somewhere. Tinned potatoes? Unless you were expecting a nuclear attack and preparing a bunker, tinned potatoes or almost any root vegetables, seems unnecessary.

Celebrity frugal cook, Jack Monroe, is in the news saying we shouldn’t be snobbish anymore about tinned food. I’m not sure it is, or was, snobbery though there must now be a case for revisiting the tin what with all the bad news about plastic waste. Surely the quality of food in a tin need not be different from similar food in a carton or plastic container.

Come to think of it, in our kitchen, some tinned goods have never gone away. Tinned tomatoes are a better product than fresh in our climate, and are always chosen for chillis and bakes in preference. Tinned beans, though not quite as good as dried, are far more convenient. And lately, being fed up with disappointingly dry, fresh grapefruits for breakfast, we have been buying tinned grapefruit segments in juice – now a store cupboard essential. Along with succulent tinned prunes, and a spoonful of natural yoghurt (albeit still from plastic tubs), it makes a perfect breakfast first course.

I draw the line at tinned tuna though. Such a noble fish, and expensive too, ruined by boiling it ready for the tin. It’s simply not the same product as fresh; it ought to be banned.

Stop being snobby about tinned food (Telegraph)

Days For The Diary

My rolling subscription to Ordnance Survey maps brought to my attention that this coming 30th September will be the inaugural National Get Outside Day here in the UK.

There seems to be a day dedicated to everything and anything you care to think of (just think of something and google it adding “day” to the end, you’ll see. And there is a day especially for blogging – Blog Action Day, 3rd November – a date for your diary.)

Given that there are trillions of things imaginable and just 365 days in which to do them, it’s clear there’s going to be days shared by several celebrations, commemorations, endeavours and activities. I trust there’s at least someone keeping a register to prevent a conflict of interest. I mean, you don’t want Get Outside Day to fall on the same 24 hours as Stay In Bed All Day Day, now would you?

Blog Action Day (3rd November)

National Get Outside Day (30th September)

Stay In Bed Day (16th September)

Three Things

Little Wheelie Carry-On Suitcases

I think everyone who flies these days makes do with a hand luggage sized suitcase. I mean, who wants to waste an hour watching other people’s luggage go around a carousel? Not me. Not you either by the look of the way things have gone.

One thing about it that baffles me a bit is why the wheels? I see many fit and strapping blokes pulling an incy-wincy case behind them when it could easily be carried. The way I see it is, if it didn’t have the retractable handle to pull it with, it’d have more capacity inside for clothes and toiletries.

For a week, or even two weeks, away, there’s an art to packing these little blighters and though I may flatter myself at my proficiency, the guy at Gentleman’s Gazette, over on Youtube, is the absolute master by comparison. Since discovering the sartorial Sven Raphael Schneider some months back, and blogging on his excellent style tips, his videos often pop up as Youtube suggestions. I’m fascinated and though I have little fashion consciousness myself, it amazes me how often I agree with him.

Anyway, Mr. Schneider advises that it is preferable to roll up some items, as opposed to folding them which I would do without thinking, so as to prevent creases. Well I’m going to be rolling my packing as well in future, just to see. Brilliant!

Iron Rain

This is not going to be about some European Heavy Metal band; know me, I wouldn’t do that to you.

I am still fascinated by astronomers who have discovered a planet which they believe to be the hottest known planet. It is that close to its parent sun that temperatures on its surface are capable of vaporising the iron and titanium present.

It has been imagined that other exoplanets exist orbiting close to their star that their weather systems might comprise clouds of aluminium, iron and other metals, and these systems could suggests it literally rains down molten iron rods. I just wonder what they make their umbrellas out of.

This sort of science cracks me up. There’s all these Sci-fi books and movies being made – The Martian, Mars Mission, Fly Me To Jupiter and back, whatever – and it’s all bollocks. It’s essentially Science Fantasy rather than Science Fiction; it belongs with stories about ghosts, hobbits and zombies. Sci-Fa, not Sci-fi. The truth is far more amazing yet the fools seem oblivious to it.

Drink Like An Italian

Yes, apparently, according to statistics and an analysis of my alcohol intake last week, I drink like an average Italian. It makes me want to shout and gesticulate whilst wearing a playfully severe expression at the BBC TV article which suggests it.

Actually, I think it’s the Italians whose lifestyles we are told to emulate – good food, long life, and they certainly wear the best clothes (I’m sure Mr. Schneider would agree).

It’s a bit disappointing to read we have a serious drinking problem in the UK despite having the lowest recommended limits for consumption of alcohol in the known universe. The presenter, Adrian Chiles, whose own consumption is the basis for the BBC’s new show about “moderate drinking”, admits to drinking every day though believes he’s not an alcoholic. If he drinks every day, how can he know he isn’t addicted?

Ah, there’s too much of this government guideline business, I don’t think I’ll be tuning in to see Mr. Chiles and his tormented liver do a U-turn; I’m happy to carry on being an Italian.


How To Pack A Carry-On Suitcase (Youtube)

KELT-9b – The first exoplanet discovered with an iron atmosphere

Booze Calculator By Nationality (BBC News)

The thing about things about other things

Lately, I’ve been reading things about other things. The thing about things about other things is that too often the truth is more mundane.

We simply don’t like things to be mundane so we embellish parts and distort others – a little like the Photo-Booth app which caricatures a face – and though the thing retains just enough resemblance to be familiar, it is, for truth’s sake, unrecognisable.

But the thing, no longer being mundane, can be celebrated or demonised, for our entertainment. And after procreation, isn’t life just about entertainment?

Amuse gueule

Work seems to have diverted my attentions. Here’s a few bits to keep the blog pulse ticking. I was going to title this post, Amuse Bouche, but I found the French prefer Amuse Gueule, so I went for that. Never say you don’t learn something new everyday.

Work, eh? When I first entered the workforce, I saw work as an old man’s thing*. As a consequence of this, me and most of the staff of a similarly young age used to play about something rotten, having a laugh, pranking, and generally not taking things seriously.

Now that I’m fast approaching the time to chuck it all in, I seriously see work as being a young person’s game. They all seem to possess the ambition and the level of enthusiasm I don’t.

The odd thing is, this suggests somewhere in my working life there must have been a time when work must have been right for me and me for work, but for the life of me I can’t see when that was.

(* apologies for the apparent sexism but it was literally all men when I began and remained so for about twenty years.)

After writing about Ikigai previously, I see there’s another Japanese idea to consider: Tsundoku. It specifically relates to buying book’s you’ll probably never get around to reading, but it could apply to other things you may buy and neglect to use, like records, shoes, or anything.

Apparently, even in Japan it isn’t that old and is a pun on the words Tsunde Oku meaning “to pile up”.

Guilty, I confess. Off the top of my head I know of a box set of Otis Redding albums and one of Emmylou Harris which I must’ve picked up a decade ago. I think it’s still wrapped in its security cling film.

Books? Well, I blame the “3 for 2” culture. I could never find that third book worth reading amongst the offers but, it was “free” wasn’t it? Now I buy mostly ebooks for convenience, it’s things like Bookbub which break down my weak resistance. I’ve amassed a fair library of 99p books waiting to be opened. Tsundoku!

An interesting piece I read just now about Aristotle’s take on friendships. He saw there were three types of friendships, and the article translates these as friendships of Utility, Pleasure and Good.

Utility friendships are the kind you might make at work. These are accidental and don’t generally last beyond work. Sure, when a guy leaves, we exchange emails and say we’ll keep in touch, we’ll even write that sentiment on the leaving card, but, two, five or ten years down the line, and we’re strangers again.

Pleasure friendships are the kind we make at school, again by chance. We have a laugh with these guys who are fun. But like the Utility ones, eventually it comes to an end and we lose touch.

Aristotle favoured the last kind, the Good, founded on shared virtues. He saw these as lasting friendships.

I was thinking of friendships the other day; all the people I kicked around with who I no longer know. Too many, to be sure. Friendship is a bit like tending a garden, or having a second language: it needs continuous attention or else in time all is lost.

Tsundoku – a Pile of Books

Aristotle on Friendships

The Venn of Ikigai (posted previously)

Dress Down Salad

When I tried out the social media site, Quora, for a brief spell, I wasn’t long into it before they suspended my account. The reason was they weren’t too keen on my name, the impudent rats!

They gave me the choice of verifying it or changing it for a more likely sounding one. So I chose Luke Jackson, an equally fictitious one but it unlocked my account instantly and without any recurring fuss. Luke Jackson, in case anyone is wondering, is the protagonist’s name in Cool Hand Luke. Remember it, it may come up in a pub quiz.

I didn’t mind doing that simple sleight of hand with a username, it didn’t cost me a thing. A lot of companies and corporations will spend the equivalent of the GDP of small nations just to fiddle with their brand. I know, I’ve worked inside some. A million pound marketing consultancy fee will change them from, say, Thompson Bond to ThompsonBond. Do you see what the do? Mind blowing, isn’t it?

I see Kraft Heinz – or maybe KraftHeinz? – are changing the name Heinz Salad Cream to Heinz Sandwich Cream, after a thousand years of faithful continuity. The reason given is that they’ve found out that consumers don’t slather it over their sliced tomatoes, cucumber and lettuce now, but drizzle it across a sandwich filling. They also found a lot of folk would rather dip their chips in it than dress their salads – so why not Heinz Chip Dip?, you might ask.

I feel there’s more to it. I think the kind of person who habitually whips up a salad these days is likely to want a decent dressing to go with it, something with identifiable ingredients. Salad Cream seems like a throwback to days of Vesta meals followed by Angel Delight dessert, maybe all washed down with a bottle of Blue Nun.

Mind you, the chip dip might be worth a try.

A mushroom that bleeds

I almost choked on my muesli this breakfast (Simply Sumptuous Special Luxury Fruit & Nut from Lidl – no finer muesli have I eaten). A vegetarian food company has invented a vegan burger that bleeds! But it’s not for vegans, or vegetarians – their target market is “omnivores”.

The Indy news reporter (link below) says she wouldn’t have guessed it isn’t meat, though she couldn’t have said which meat it isn’t. Although it’s not clear in the video that it’s actually “bleeding”, the blood effect comes from the addition of red beetroot,while the majority of the burger is based on that old meat impersonator, mushroom.

So, to recap, it looks like a burger, tastes like meat and bleeds like it once was an animal. And is aimed at “omnivores”.

“Omnivores” will know that, for as long as most can remember, burgers should not bleed. Not unless the diner wishes to play Russian roulette with his or her gut, with the ever present bullet of bacteria in ground or minced meat products. The advice has long been to cook until the “juices” run clear and no amount of pinkness remains.

So, it’s really for those “omnivores” with long memories and a touch of nostalgia. Their target market seems to be shrinking faster than a well-done burger.

The Independent: Food news – meatless bleeding burger (video)